Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Believing that other teams used technology to decode signs, a group of Houston Astros asked the organization for access to a live feed from a centerfield camera in 2017.
They did not install a new camera for sign-stealing purposes, and the players and coaches involved did not even know which camera the feed was coming from. They wanted a monitor closer to the dugout, because their video room was too far away. They considered their actions to be in line with industry standards.
The above narrative represents the picture painted by some of the interviews conducted by MLB investigators this fall, according to sources with direct knowledge of the investigation. The league has already spoken with nearly 60 people, and SNY can now report some of what they have learned.
The overall picture painted by these sources is one that shows the Astros breaking rules, but not going so far as to install a camera specifically for sign stealing.
"We did ask for a game centerfield feed to decode signs, as many teams do," one witness told MLB, according to sources. "All we asked for was a live feed."
Baseball considers that illegal, and will punish accordingly. Harsh discipline for Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch remain in play.
But -- if these witnesses are telling the truth -- the league has received answers to a question raised by a November story in The Athletic.
"Four people who were with the Astros in 2017, including pitcher Mike Fiers, said that during that season, the Astros stole signs during home games in real time with the aid of a camera positioned in the outfield,' the publication reported, weeks after SNY reported that the Yankees complained about whistling to convey signs during the ALCS.
That left questions about whether the camera was installed specifically for that purpose. Did a member of the front office approve the purchase of a new camera, creating a sinister paper trail that showed intent to cheat?
Sources say the camera in question was league-approved and already in place. One source suggested it could have been a scouting camera, which would have been its league-approved purpose. That is more likely than a camera from the TV feed, which would have required the broadcast crew to participate in the scheme.
As far as MLB is concerned, any use of electronics to facilitate sign stealing is illegal. Even Astros witnesses are conceding to investigators that such actions took place, because the feed was aired on a monitor behind the dugout. At this point, the question appears to be not if the Astros broke the rule, but how and to what degree they did it.
This will not surprise opponents like the Yankees, who long suspected the Astros of cheating over the past several seasons.
Those suspicions boiled over during Game 1 of the ALCS, when manager Aaron Boone asked home plate umpire Bill Welke about the whistling sounds coming from the Houston dugout, according to sources.
As SNY reported last month, Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin told Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, "tell your f-cking hitting coach I'm going to kick his f-cking ass."
The reason for that comment, which is previously unreported, underscores the tension caused by the Astros allegations: The hitting coach, Alex Cintron, had just stuck his middle finger in the air and pointed it at Boone from across the field.